This last weekend on Saturday Night Live, host Chris Rock demonstrated that he actually has a better theology of Christmas than many Christians. Not without controversy, Rock made fun of Americans’ propensity to commercialize anything and everything, and critiqued our collective degradation of 9/11, MLK and Christmas.
“I don’t know Jesus,” Rock said, “but from what I’ve read Jesus is the least materialistic person to ever roam the earth.” “We turned his birthday into the most materialistic day of the year!”
“Matter of fact,” he continues, “we have the Jesus-birthday season. It’s a whole season of materialism. Then at the end of the Jesus-birthday season, we have the nerve to have an economist come on TV and tell you how horrible the Jesus-birthday season was this year!”
That’s not bad! In fact, it’s a lot better than the theology of a Christian subculture that endlessly chants the somewhat empty mantra, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” or the more aggressive, “Keep Christ in Christmas.”
Kirk Cameron seems to be building a whole career on that one these days.
I like what Rock is doing by calling the upcoming holiday period the “Jesus-birthday season.” This nomenclature reminds me that we really should think differently about the days between Thanksgiving (or is it now Halloween?) and New Year’s. It reminds me that Jesus’ birth was an event that symbolized his whole ministry. Born in a stable/cave, amidst the poverty of shepherds, to an unmarried teen from a secular and indigent land, this homeless baby’s entrance was a model for God’s relationship with humanity.
If we were to properly remember and experience the birth of Jesus in our Christmas Eve church services, we’d probably be quite uncomfortable. The stench of animal dung, the cold of the night air and the bleating and braying of livestock would have us heading out the door for a more sensible church. I wonder if we can really understand Christmas when we never experience it as the jarringly disruptive occasion that it originally was.
Jesus showed up in the most unexpected of places and called his followers to an alternate kingdom in which power, wealth and control were not the primary indicators of status. He still does. The Christ-in-Christmas movement falls far short of this upside-down King, and seems more often concerned with preserving a comfortable, truncated version of Christmas.
I agree with Rock, there’s “no bling on Jesus!”